Diane Birch has big shoes to fill. Early reviews compare her to Carole King, Laura Nyro and Aretha Franklin. The Franklin nod is a bit of a stretch, but there’s no denying that the 20-something singer/songwriter’s S-Curve Records debut, “Bible Belt,” is infused with the kind of soul that is rare these days.
Recorded in New York and New Orleans with producers Betty Wright, Mike Mancini and S-Curve Records founder Steve Greenberg, “Bible Belt” synthesizes Birch’s lifetime of influences: from the choir music she heard growing up around the globe as the daughter of a minister to the pop music she caught up on once she moved to the United States. A number of top-flight musicians played on the album, including The Roots bassist Adam Blackstone, Patti Smith Group’s guitarist Lenny Kaye and the Meters’ George Porter.
Hitfix caught a performance by Birch and her band June 2 in the courtyard at the landmark Capitol Tower in Hollywood. It was a big day for Birch: “Bible Belt” hit retail stores and she made her TV debut, appearing on “Late Night with Craig Ferguson.”
Read what she has to say here and then check out her first single, the soulful “Nothing but a Miracle” here.
Q: Tell us about your influences found their way onto this record.
A: The influences probably start with church hymns. I grew up in church, my dad was a preacher, and I think that I really was influenced by classical music and church hymns and opera. And then when I moved to America, I started listening to more pop music and I sort of went through a lot of different genres because I hadn’t grown up with it as a child. I had to sort of expose myself to a lot of things where I could quickly catch up. I gravitated towards so many different things and so many different genres of music and I essentially kind of just picked out the essential bit and the pure essence of each genre and I kind of incorporated it [on “Bible Belt”]
Q: What was the first album you ever bought?
A: I don’t really know, maybe Depeche Mode? I listened to the Cure, I listened to Bauhaus. I listened to a lot of Goth bands and I started listening to more pop. I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I’ve never really stuck in one specific genre. I think this record represents the best…I can’t really say that…but it represents, in my mind, what I thought was the best of all these different genres.
Q: What was the best part about making the record?
A: The best part, really, is just seeing your songs come to life, seeing such incredible musicians playing on the album. It’s an honor to have such a high caliber of musicianship all over the album. It was really great to see that level of effort put into making a record in this day and age is really rare. I’m so grateful for Steve for wanting to put all of that into it.
Q: What was the most challenging part?
A: The most challenging part is really working with people who have different ideas and visions. When you’ve kind of birthed these songs– I’ve lived with them, I’ve thought about how I hear every part, every vocal part, every arrangement of everything– you get a lot of different ideas coming in and it kind of throws off the plan. You have to be open to that and as an artist it’s really hard to do that. I had to realize it’s my first record and I don’t know all there is to know. And you have to let go. It’s hard.
Q: You just put on a great show. What do you like best about playing live?
A: I love seeing how it affects people. I just want people to have a good time. I want to have a good time when I go listen to music. I just want to keep playing with the band. I think we have a great chemistry. We’ve only been playing together for a short time. I think if we can keep playing and keep playing, we can start to really develop. And I like to show different aspects of the songs. I think [playing live] shows different sides of it. I think people need to connect to the music. People can do that with the album, but there’s a whole different side of me that people need to see.